Det är presidentval i Iran imorgon. Det är ett val som redan är historiskt, oavsett vem som faktiskt vinner. Det har skapat en demokratisk jätterörelse; människor är ute på gatorna, det ordnas enorma massmöten, debattens vågor går höga på arbetsplatser, på torg, i tidningar, i telefonväkterier på TV. Situationen är fundamentalt annorlunda än för några år sedan – för att inte tala om kontrasten mot det monolitiska system som rådde på 80-talet. Det är också något som drastiskt kontrasterar mot den ideologiskt tillrättalagda, i avgörande avseenden falska bild av Iran som målas upp i västerländska medier. Först de allra senaste dagarna har det börjat dyka upp en del reportage som plockat upp några av signalerna från den iranska verkligheten. Förhoppningsvis kan det bli lite mer av det när resultatet ska rapporteras och tolkas.
Jag hinner inte skriva mer här just nu. Men jag klipper in några avsnitt från långa rapporter från en bekant, en exiliranier som befinner sig i Iran just nu. Den fascinerande tv-debatten mellan Ahmadinejad och Mousavi finns med engelsk dubbning här. Från ca 1:10 och framåt kommer några ordväxlingar som kommer att leva länge i iraniers medvetande. Dels Ahmadinejads plötsliga och hårda angrepp på Rafsanjani-klanen och andra delar av den religiösa eliten som berikat sig själva via de statliga institutionerna. Dels Mousavis angrepp på Ahmadinejad, där han säger att hans sätt att leda och debattera pekar fram mot diktatur – en långtgående kritik i en tv-debatt som går ut till hela det iranska folket.
Från 1:27 får man höra en väldigt bra sammanfattning av hela debatten på god engelska.
För den som förstår persisiska, föreslår jag att man söker upp debatten utan dubbning på YouTube. För mig var det frapperande att höra Ahamadinejad i det här sammanhanget. Han är helt annorlunda än i de stela talen i FN, eller när han läst upp olika sorters deklarationer om Israel. I den här TV-debatten lyser den avslappnade populisten igenom. Det är ett tonfall och ett språk som är lugn men mycket offensiv, som är fromt konservativt utan att vara lärt religiöst. Den som ser debatten med en djupare förförståelse av Iran än den man får av att höra på Aktuellt/Folkpartiet, begriper i alla fall bättre hur Ahmadinejad kunde vinna presidentvalet för fyra år sedan och varför han fortfarande har en god chans att vinna.
Sist lägger jag upp några foton.
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30 years ago, in January 1979, with the largest font in their history, the headlines of the two Iranians newspapers read “SHAH RAFT!” “THE SHAH IS GONE!” I was on campus in the morning and when the news came, I began to walk toward the largest square on the western edge of the city, Shahyad (today Azadi or freedom). Young and old, women and men, kids, grandparents every single person in the city, it felt like, was dancing on the streets. People waved their Rial bills with the punctured picture of the Shah in disbelief. I walked for 4-5 hours that day and smoked two packs of cigarettes, I vividly remembered that I bought a pack right outside the campus and another one when I approached the square, and I survived. Yesterday, the supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi formed a human chain from Rah-Ahan (railway) square, in the south side, to Tajrish in the north, a roughly 25km distance. I walked for hours amongst the crowds of the green wave, Mousavi’s campaign color. I do not smoke more, but felt the same rush as 1979. Many share that feeling on the streets as they carry phony copies of newspapers that read “AHMADI RAFT!” Not so soon, I would say. He still is the front-runner and has a good chance of being re-elected.
The more I read the foreign press and the expatriate accounts of the election in Iran, the better I understand the problems of disconnectedness with everyday lives of people here. You need to be here, all my friends need to be here on the streets of Tehran to see with their own eyes and feel with their own skin the degree of excitement that this election has
generated. Yes, there are problems with the selection process. Yes, these candidates do not represent the best and the brightest. Yes, yes, yes, but the election has filled the air with joy and hope.
It is now impossible to go out after 7 in the evening and expect to get back home any time earlier than 2-3 am. So far the mood is celebratory, but one can feel a growing tension that might end this party. The election is in four days and the results will be announced a day later. My fear is that the way the campaigns are being conducted, no matter who wins the election the other side will have a difficult time to concede. Ahmadi has opened old wounds by questioning a large part of the first generation revolutionary leaders. He has indicted the entire system and represents himself as an outsider underdog who has been unfairly treated by the powerful elites who fear Ahmadi’s relentless campaign against nepotism and corruption. Mousavi says that the country faces grave dangers and promises fundamental changes many of which he cannot deliver. It is going to be tough to ask these hundreds of thousands of defiant late night street party-goers and protestors to return home after the election is going to be tough.
Regardless of who wins, next Saturday, the day after election, is going to be a historic day. Where would this energy go? No one in Iran has seen anything like this since the time of revolution. I am so glad to be here, but fearful of the outcome.
One point that caught my attention this morning in the NY Times piece was that it said that the state-controlled TV has restricted candidates’ access to publicize their campaign. That is true, but not in the sense that the NYT suggests as an example of undemocratic character of the election. I actually think that access to radio and TV is much more democratic here than the US. No candidate can “buy” time on TV or radio for their commercials. By election law, all the candidates must have equal access to radio and television. It is true the ruling administration might have an edge over the challengers, but that edge as people here see is very subtle and not so blatant. The TV has offered 5 different formats with equal time to all four candidates to publicize their positions. (1) Each candidate is given two 30-minute time (60 minutes total) for a primetime documentary in each of which they talk about themselves and their programs. Usually famous film directors who support any candidate produce these documentaries. (2) In meet the experts each candidate answers the questions of three people in different fields for one hour. (3) Each two candidate debate each other separately for 90 minutes, a total of 9 debates. (4) Conversation with a candidate (60 minutes). And finally (5) a 60-minute conversation with Iranian expatriates on the International channel Jaam-e Jam. The state-run radio also offers similar programs.
Unlike the two presidential debates in the US, so far the presidential debates here have been the most exciting. Particularly the one between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, which I can easily say that it was a historic one.
Money of course makes a difference in their campaigns in public spaces in terms of printing posters and banners that have plastered every little space in the city. I did my own little survey to gauge the support for different candidates across different neighborhoods from north of the city to the south. Shops put posters of the candidates they support on their doors and windows. I took a bus from the Argentine Square in a middle and upper middle class neighborhood to Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Square and then to Tehran’s old bazaar. I counted more 80 shops with Mousavi posters and less than 10 with Ahmadinejad’s. Even in Tehran bazaar, which traditionally was anti-Mousavi, I could seldom find a poster of Ahmadinejad. One young shopkeeper even asked me to leave his shop if I am an Ahmadinejad supporter! But we should keep that in mind that shop owners, even the poor ones, have a different class interest from that of wage earners. Working class wage earners have benefited from Ahmadinejad policies, particularly during this past year, and more specifically last couple of months. The government has given a 75% raise to most pensioners, and has raised the minimum wage to almost US$300, a 25% raise. That has generated tremendous support for Ahmadinejad. Some argue that he’s buying vote by these policies, but that might be irrelevant when it comes to polling stations.
I must tell you that this election is becoming more and more sensational by the minute. Every night after 8 o’clock people flood the streets, honking, and waving their flags and posters in support of their candidates. Most visible are the supporters of Mousavi. Two nights ago after the controversial debate between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, I went out to the street and could not return home till 3:30 in the morning. It is hard to describe the mood here, something in between a celebration, rally, carnival, a revolution, with some tense moments of possibility of clashes between different campaigns. Young men and women pack their cars, stick half of their bodies out of the window wave their flags and dance. One of Mousavi’s creative tactics was to announce his campaign a “green campaign,” green as the color of growth and change. Now you can’t see a young person on the streets without a green headband, wristband, or a shawl. Cars have something or another green handing from their outside or rearview mirror. I’ve seen cars that are wrapped in green ribbons.
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